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Review: Terri

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One of the beauties of the three most recent features by Azazel Jacobs, “The GoodTimesKid,” (2005), “Momma’s Man” (2008) and now “Terri,” is how patient he is in finding and shaping narrative rhythms, scaling them to his characters and the actors who inhabit them. Gerardo Naranjo, a sorrowful-eyed silent-movie sad-sack in “GoodTimesKid,” moves curiously through a blurry Los Angeles; in “Momma’s Man,” a son returns home to his parents’ curiosity shop of a loft in Manhattan and refuses to leave. The perambulation of the first and the inertia of the second are patiently calibrated. “Terri” is a California-set teen comedy, but not a teen comedy, not really, another of the latter-day burst of reinvestigations of that genre, a gentle story about the slow emergence of an outsider into his own identity. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t You Forget About Me: John Hughes and Our Teenage Heartbeat

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HUGHES_COVER_web-1The death last week of Chicago’s auteur, John Hughes, shook the foundations of a generation, and all those whose generations have since followed. Coming within a month of the demise of Michael Jackson, the message seems loud and clear: those days have ended. Michael’s death, sad as it was, surprised no one. He was our alien, bringing us strange wonderful magic from another place. We could love him, but never understand him.

But John Hughes, he was one of us. He “told me to myself,” as David Schneider writes herein. And in dying, he take a piece of our selves with him.

We asked writers to share their personal thoughts and experiences related to the John Hughes experience, and received an overwhelming response. Read the rest of this entry »

John Hughes: Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

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By Ray PrideB7144-16-01

“Breaking News” from Variety on my phone on the 66 home: John Hughes dead at 59. Eyes sting a little and immediately I remember the Simple Minds lyrics, “Don’t you forget about me, no, no, no,” heard in “The Breakfast Club.” John Hughes, the man, had been all but forgotten as a briefly prolific filmmaker (eight features in eight years, thirty-five-plus script credits), but the movies, the lines of dialogue, comic and observational, and yes, the songs, they’re stuck in an impressively expansive collective brain.

. . .

Five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disks and loose pages spilled across the surface of the desk. “These are his pages,” the woman offering me the sudden urgent weekend task said. “What you have to do is take all these typed pages and make sure they match up to the pages on the disk,” compiled in a now-defunct, now-obscure word-processing program, “and you have to be careful not to change anything. John doesn’t like anyone changing things. A comma, a word. We just need a working copy for the production office.” I looked at one of the several front pages. “Uncle Buck.” Read the rest of this entry »

John Hughes: The Art of Ferris, Wheeling

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Ferris_Buellers_Day_Off_282I was Duckie. I was Duckie and Gary and Wyatt too; my feeble attempts to attract the girls, a blowup lab of weird science. But mostly I was Cameron to a Bueller: a little lord of misrule brambling my Ivy-climbing tightrope. We took the Cadillac for a joyride, saw triple at 4am; he had sex with his underage stripper girlfriend on the neighbor’s lawn. I couldn’t get laid if the Swedish Bikini Team parachuted into my Y-fronts.

Not that I really wanted that, regardless of my furious tallywhacking of Portnoy prodigiousness. In the long dank high-school hallway of the 1980s, under pressure like a stubborn blackhead, I wanted Beauty and Sympathy and Understanding. The culture told me to fuck, ralphing up “Porky’s” and T&A excreta by the dozen, and despite the breast of intentions, I’d slip those tapes by the video-store clerk in furtive shuffles.

And then there was John Hughes, who told me to myself—who told our teenage selves to all of us, with a unique language of American adolescence, in a magical-realist Midwest where wit was a gateway drug to the acid of honesty. Read the rest of this entry »

John Hughes: Bible Study

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The_Breakfast_Club_535“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”

The early John Hughes movies spoke to the kids that kept their mouths shut during school. I was one of them—interested in sports but not very good at playing them, interested in writing but too shy to seek out a place at the school paper, interested in girls but, well, you can imagine how that would be for a pimply-faced nervous wreck who weighed just over a hundred pounds. I had some friends; we spent most of our time alone in our bedrooms teaching ourselves how to play guitar. But one thing that was always there was “The Breakfast Club.”

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

It started in junior high, when I’d view the film almost weekly in anticipation of what high school was REALLY going to be like. Finally, diversity. Finally, girls. People can talk how they want to talk and not be afraid. In high school, you’re like, totally almost an adult. Five disparate kids sent to Saturday detention; through conversation, they come to understand their differences and their lives are changed. Sound silly? I wanted to be all of them, but was hardly any of them. Bender, the cool rebel. Andrew, the successful jock. Claire, the popular princess. Allison, the artistic misfit (she was the one who later, I’m sure, really got into indie rock). And Brian, the brain, who if you watch the film closely, reveals himself to be the most important character, the one who really brings the group together. Shit, I even wanted to be Carl, the school’s janitor. Read the rest of this entry »

John Hughes: Going Through Changes

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The_Breakfast_Club_539People often speak of the seventies as being a foul time for popular music—I would humbly submit that the years I attended high school, 1986-1990, were far, far worse. Stuck in the limbo between the decline of new wave and everything that happened post-Nirvana, MTV was an unintentionally comedic display of Winger, Warrant, Whitesnake and White Lion, and radio was Bananarama, Paula Abdul, Milli Vanilli (you get the idea). Granted, there was a bona fide alternative music scene at the time (even if many of the best punk/hardcore bands of the eighties were finished by then), but in terms of your basic uber-culture, contemporary rock ‘n’ roll music was a sham offering next to nothing that a suburban Central Florida teenager like myself needed to survive high school.

So, with that kind of raw deal, besides turning to the music of the recent past (The Who, Buzzcocks, Ramones), it was necessary to look to other mediums to find knowing and understanding guides through the proverbial teenage wasteland. Enter John Hughes. Read the rest of this entry »

John Hughes: The Blueprint

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Ferris_Buellers_Day_Off_333There will likely be no gold-plated casket for John Hughes, no huge wake at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and no blowout eulogies or mournful dirges from Al Sharpton and Stevie Wonder.

There should. (Please hold the bad guitar solos from an opportunistic John Mayer, though.)

While I spent my childhood mesmerized by Michael Jackson, I spent my life in communion with John Hughes.

Jackson was a superhero, his Moonwalk a secret power. Though inspiring, he was as unrelatable as any man who calls a chimp named Bubbles his friend and embraces baby tigers while striking model poses in a Don Johnson leisure suit.

Sure, from his J.D. Salinger-like reclusiveness to that tortoise-shell-eyeglasses-adorned-hunky-brooding look in the press photo making the rounds last week, Hughes had his quirks.

But, yearbook photos circa 1988 will confirm many of us also had our own questionable pompadours, frizzy haircuts and Oliver People’s-plastic-glasses-frame phase.

And, while Jackson would dangle a baby, unveil the latest horrors of his alleged plastic surgeries, and celebrate the scorn and ire he raised with a concert, an album or a stroll through a public market in a SARS-virus-chic ensemble, Hughes embraced failure in a more human way.

No one knows for sure, but it seems cinematic failures like “Curly Sue,” “Dutch,” and “Beethoven” maybe did him in, turned him into a bit of a haunted Elvis-like figure roaming his North Shore mansion or his farm in Harvard, Illinois in search of what went wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

John Hughes: Molly-festo

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Sixteen_Candles_023Last year I composed and presented my personal love letter to John Hughes and Molly Ringwald—a live theatrical fusion of the three films they made together titled “MOLLYWOOD.” As an awkward gay teenage boy in 1980s Midwest, I searched desperately for any reflection of my own feelings of isolation and longing and for guidance in understanding how I might fit into this seemingly hostile landscape. And then John Hughes gave me “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink”—three 1980s Midwest fairytales about awkward teenage isolation and longing. I didn’t need deep socio-political deconstruction of my experience; I just needed to know I wasn’t uniquely alone in feeling unique and alone.  If Molly Ringwald could weather the storms of teen angst, then so could I. If, in the final reel, Molly could win the heart of the heartthrob, then maybe my heart would win, too.

I hereby submit Scooty’s Molly-festo: Read the rest of this entry »

John Hughes: Sweet Home

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Ferris_Buellers_Day_Off_004I was fourteen or so, living in Westchester County, New York, and a friend and I went to the movies. I don’t know if it’s still the norm, but it was customary back then to buy a ticket for one film and then watch all the other movies showing in the theater back-to-back-to-back, however many you could stand before your parents came to pick you up in the silver-blue Cutlass Supreme. At the very least, you would get two in.

I remember we bought tickets for a John Carpenter film called “Big Trouble In Little China.” Afterward, we exited the theater, looked at the other choices, and walked into a movie called “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

About an hour and a half later, I exited a transformed being, imbued with a tremendous sense of joy and hope and a strident belief in the power and vitality of my own youth. Somewhere in that span of time, right around when Ferris got on the float and sang “Twist and Shout” on the Magnificent Mile, I made the decision I would live in that city one day.

I eventually ended up in Chicago for thirteen years till I left town to move out west. But Chicago will always be first and foremost in my heart, and the place where I feel I am most “from.” And it may be trite to say it was due to a film by John Hughes, but hey, I’ve never been accused of being overly deep. (Mike Shum)

John Hughes: The Big Bad City

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Sixteen_Candles_007Having grown up in Ohio, I had a skewed view of what living in the big, bad city of Chicago must’ve been like. Before I embarked on my own move five years ago, I spent most of my childhood vicariously living through the lives of John Hughes’ characters in such acclaimed films as “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles.” Hughes’ movies encapsulated the youth of the Chicago’s ‘burbs and the angst the characters experienced. Whether it was a then-8-year-old Macaulay Culkin’s battle with burglars in heart-warmer “Home Alone,” or lovesick Samantha Baker’s b-day diss in “Sixteen Candles,” he somehow humanized these fictional characters and made them universally relatable. I’ve taken two things away from his vast filmography: with his family-oriented films, I gleaned that no matter how much your family drives you crazy, they’re still you’re family and you should love them anyway. With his teen-angst flicks, he taught me no matter how different we are, we’ll eventually find someone who loves us for who we are, like Ducky does for Andie in “Pretty in Pink.” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Pink” and “Candles” are blatant love stories about getting the one you never thought you could have. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing that it’s possible to get the hot, rich guy (or girl) to love your for your dorkiness while an unbelievable soundtrack guides you on your quest for true love. Read the rest of this entry »